Tulsa Pearl Harbor survivors' stories to be reprinted
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 08, 2012
12/08/12 at 7:48 AM
It’s been 67 years since World
War II ended and the Greatest
Generation returned home, but
their memories survive. Read
stories about Oklahoma’s World
War II veterans.
The six men who lived through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had a wide range of experience from that day, including raising the flag on the sunken USS West Virginia and shooting down Japanese planes from a garage pit.
But the freshly printed books they each held in their hands had so many more experiences - the stories of more than 50 Pearl Harbor survivors from the Tulsa area in print again for the first time in a decade.
"It's going to be something tremendous," said Arles Cole, who survived on the USS West Virginia and spearheaded the campaign to raise the money to fund the reprinting.
The six survivors gathered as they do every Pearl Harbor Day for lunch, although each year the number dwindles.
There are nine remaining members of the Tulsa-area Last Man's Club, Veterans of Pearl Harbor. Six were well enough to attend the lunch and ceremony Friday, the 71st anniversary of the surprise attack on the Hawaiian Islands that launched the United States into World War II.
The collection of more than 50 stories was compiled and printed in 1999, and the sales of those books helped the club survive for years.
"For all those years, we didn't have to pay dues," Cole said. "It paid for flowers and the expenses we had."
Not only did the book help the club, but the public enjoyed the firsthand accounts of survival that filled its pages.
"This book has been requested in Tulsa since it went out, but we couldn't get the funds," Cole said.
In September, Cole and others started raising money to get the book reprinted, and more than $4,500 came in, including a publishing company that donated 1,000 professionally designed glossy covers.
Printing should begin next week, and Cole said the first priority will be to get a copy of the book into every school in Tulsa County, free of charge.
"It will be a piece of history they all will love," Cole said. After the schools receive the book, it will be made available for purchase to the public, but those details have not been finalized.
A small ceremony honored their service that day 71 years ago, with the veterans and their loved ones sitting in chairs on the red-and-white-checkered ballroom floor at the American Legion Post 308.
A series of lights was illuminated for the members of the Tulsa-area Last Man's Club who have died. The 61 names were read, with 61 chimes of a bell to honor the fallen survivors, many of whom the remaining survivors knew.
Earlier Friday morning across town, several current and former military personnel, area politicians and educators gathered to remember the sacrifices of those who died that day at Pearl Harbor. The annual event at Tulsa Tech's Riverside Campus provided a breakfast for the veterans and gave everyone a chance to thank them.
Command Sgt. Maj. Elizabeth Limon, the acting command sergeant major with the 486th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Tulsa, said it's an honor to be part of the same military tradition as the WWII veterans.
She said an older sergeant major came up to her at the event and thanked her for her service in the most recent conflicts.
"He even said he appreciated us," Limon said. "I said I appreciate you and what you went through."
Ray Amstutz, 88, said he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor at church that Sunday morning when someone handed a note to the pastor, who told everyone to go home to be with their families.
He signed up for the Army when he could and served in the Pacific Theater toward the end of the war. At the Tulsa Tech event, he received a standing ovation after he spoke. He said the appreciation for his service is humbling.
"I am very honored," he said. "We did what we were supposed to do and glad to do it, too."
Original Print Headline: Remembering Pearl Harbor
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Jay Jernigan stands in front of a lighted memorial Friday during a Pearl Harbor remembrance at American Legion Mohawk Post 308. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Leah Morris, a member of the Union High School JROTC, holds a folded American flag Friday during a Pearl Harbor observance at Tulsa Technology Center. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
World War II veteran Ray Amstutz shakes hands with Elizabeth Limon on Friday after a Pearl Harbor observance at Tulsa Technology Center. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Pearl Harbor survivors Don Baldrachi (left) and Arles Cole tell stories about their experiences shortly before a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Friday at American Legion Mohawk Post 308. MIKE SIMONS/ Tulsa World